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Platonic Dualism in the Reformed Understanding of the Real Presence?

“Calvin on the Eucharist” by W. Robert Godfrey

Recently there was a discussion on this site about the Reformed tradition’s understanding of the real presence.  Russ Warren was criticized for his explanation that in the Eucharist we ascend to heaven and there mystically feed on Christ’s body and blood.  He was trying to show how the Reformed tradition doesn’t hold to a memorialist view of the Lord’s Supper but to the more “traditional” understanding of the real presence.  In response to the criticism that his view was Nestorian, he counters: “I’m not sure how Christ being “locally” in heaven is such a problem.”

Here’s what he wrote on 15 April 2011:

I’m not sure how Christ being “locally” in heaven is such a problem. Since we (to use Schmemman’s language) “ascend to heaven” when we worship, we are where Christ “locally” is: He makes that hypostatically united presence known to us in the Reading of the Scriptures and the Eucharist (among other ways, here, I gather, is where the Orthodox understanding of icons really comes into its own). Since we are with the physical and spiritual presence of Christ, why is it such a jump to say that the bread and wine are the Body and the Blood? There doesn’t seem to be anything Nestorian about it (unless I’m completely misunderstanding). We partake of Christ the Host, the Victim and the Victor, really, truly, actually, because we are in heaven — seated with Him. At least from my vantage point, Calvin doesn’t seem to be far off here — nor particularly unorthodox.  (bold added)

In a follow up comment he referenced a posting: “The Reality of Worship” on his blog Withdrawals of a Theological Junkie.  I believe his presentation of the Reformed understanding of the real presence is balanced but I question his assumption that it is the same as the early church.  What I found striking about Warren’s explanation in his blog is the way Platonic dualism framed his theology and world view which led me to write up this blog posting than just bury it in the comment thread.  What I want to do here is discuss the Platonic dualism that seems to underlie the Reformed understanding of the real presence in the Eucharist and show how it is at odds with historic Orthodoxy.

The way Warren frames his understanding of worship contains clear indications of a Platonic dualism.  This becomes more obvious if his views are presented in bullet points:

  • God is eternal and “dwells outside the constraints and bounds of time;”
  • “We are in time” and for that reason cannot always perceive the reality of the Kingdom of God;
  • We enter the Kingdom of God through baptism and faith;
  • We “transcend earthly, time-bound reality and enter into God’s Kingdom” through worship;
  • We are seated with Christ in the heavenly places through worship;
  • “This means that whenever we enter into worship, we are entering the timeless, eternal state of the Kingdom….
  • Through the Eucharist we are “partaking of the very event — which is both eternal and time-bound to ca. AD 30.”


Russ Warren’s opposition of eternity vs. time bears a striking resemblance to Plato’s theory of Forms: the world of senses, i.e., the sensible world we inhabit comprise of mere copies derived from the archetypal world of Forms.  In the parable of the Cave Socrates alluded to the two realities and to philosophical reflection as a means for escaping the world of shadows and echoes to the eternal world of Forms.

Something similar to Socrates’ Cave can be seen in Protestantism’s emphasis on the profound gap that separates us from God.  It is grounded in ontology (God’s infinity) and morality (God’s infinite goodness and man’s utter depravity).  The moral gap is resolved by Christ’s atoning death on the cross for our sins.  The ontological gap is bridged primarily by the divinely inspired Scriptures and faith in Christ.  There is a striking similarity between Socrates’ philosophical reflection and Protestantism’s sola fide (by faith alone), that is, the reliance on pure thought.  The notion of pure thought is especially evident in the Protestant understanding of the sacraments as outward signs of an inward grace and that it is the inward grace that saves us, not the outward ritual.. The Reformed unease with the idea of grace bearing matter underlies their denial of a localized real presence in the Eucharist.

This denial of a local presence marks a break from the ancient church’s understanding of the Eucharist and will be discussed in more detail.  But before proceeding, two questions need to be addressed: (1) What is the Reformed understanding of the real presence? and (2) Did Calvin hold to a Platonic dualism?

The Reformed Understanding of the Real Presence

Lord’s Supper Celebrated in Calvin’s Geneva

One of the clearest exposition of the Reformed understanding of the real presence can be found in John Williamson Nevin’s The Mystical Presence.  In it Nevin affirmed the real presence, while rejecting a localized real presence in the Eucharist (Mystical Presence 1966:310, 314, 316).


He wrote:

…the Reformed Church taught that the participation of Christ’s flesh and blood in the Lord’s Supper is spiritual only, and in no sense corporal.  The idea of a local presence in the case was utterly rejected.  ….  The manducation of it is not oral, but only by faith.  (Mystical Presence 1966:37-38; italics in original; bold added)

In another place, Nevin stresses it is “only by the soul” we receive Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist (Mystical Presence 1966:274).  Calvin likewise was averse to any understanding of a localized real presence in connection with the Eucharist (Institutes 4.17.12, 1960:1372-1373).; he saw such an understanding as resulting in Christ being “fastened,” “enclosed,” or “circumscribed” by the bread and wine (Institutes 4.17.19, 1960:1381).  Probably the clearest example of Calvin’s rejection of a localized real presence can be found in the passage below:

And first we must not dream of such a presence of Christ in the Sacrament as the craftsmen of the Roman court have fashioned–as if the body of Christ, by a local presence, were put there to be touched by the hands, to be chewed by the teeth, and to be swallowed by the mouth. (Institutes 4.17.12; Battles edition 1960:1372)

Apparently Calvin was paraphrasing the Roman Catholic document Ego Berengarius which stated the Catholic understanding in extreme terms; nonetheless, it is telling that Calvin repudiated in no uncertain terms the idea of a localized presence in the Eucharist.  It is also telling that Calvin repudiated any notion of change or transformation in the Eucharistic elements.

Certainly Christ does not say to the bread that it shall become his body, but he commands his disciples to eat and promises them participation in his body and blood. (Institutes 4.17.39; 1960:1416; emphasis added)

However, this is at odds with the first century Liturgy of St. James of Jerusalem which has a twofold epiclesis: upon the congregation and upon the Eucharistic elements.

Send down, O Lord, upon us and upon these gifts that lie before Thee Thy selfsame Spirit the all-holy that hovering with His holy and good and glorious coming He may hallow and make this bread the holy Body of Christ [The people: Amen.] and this cup the precious Blood of Christ [The people: Amen.]  (Dix The Shape of the Liturgy 1945:191-192; bold added; italics in original)

One striking aspect of the Reformed worship tradition is the omission of the epiclesis.  The epiclesis — the calling down of the Holy Spirit on the bread and the wine — is key to the Orthodox understanding of the Eucharist.  The denial of the local presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist along with the omission of the epiclesis points to the Reformed tradition break from the liturgical theology of the ancient church.

This break with the liturgical theology of the early church is more than a curious fact.  It is evidence of a gnostic attitude to history.  It seems that for many Protestants history doesn’t matter, that all we need is the Bible and faith in Christ.  But history does matter because biblical truths are grounded in historical facts.  Christian doctrine cannot just be based on logical constructs but in historical facts as well, e.g., Christ’s death on the cross and his third day resurrection.  Knowledge of church history is important for two biblical reasons: (1) Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would guide his followers into all truth (John 16:12-15 and (2) Paul commanded his followers to pass on the apostolic teaching to future generations (II Timothy 2:2).  Thus, historical continuity from the generation of the Apostles to subsequent generations is important to Christian doctrine.  For this reason the first century Liturgy of St. James (the brother of the Lord) is so crucial for our understanding of the Eucharist.

Likewise, it is important that we see early church history as the fulfillment of the promise that the Holy Spirit would guide the early church, protecting her from error.  And yet many Protestants seem to have an inconsistent approach to church history.  Many Protestants honor the early church fathers for combating the heresies of Gnosticism, Arianism, Sabellianism, and accept the early orthodox definitions of Christology and the Trinity but then show no respect to the way the early church worshiped.  Their omission of the epiclesis and their rejection of the local presence imply that the early church fathers went astray when it came to right worship early on.

If the Reformed Christians are right on this, then the whole premise of II Timothy 2:2 must be called into question and so also the promise of the Spirit’s guidance in John 14:25-26 and 16:12-15.  The blind spot of many Protestants is assumption that the early church operated on the basis of sola Scriptura, but that is not the case given the fact that for the first few centuries there was no fixed biblical canon.  The biblical canon emerged gradually over time through a consensus among bishops and councils: local, regional, then ecumenical.  The early church was not Protestant but relied on the faithful transmission of the Apostolic teaching and the Holy Spirit guiding the church as a whole.  Thus, the Liturgy of St. James ought not to be viewed as an interesting accessory but an integral to the Christian Faith and instructive for right worship today.

In a departure from the epiclesis in the Liturgy of St. James, Calvin understood the Lord’s Supper not so much in terms of the Holy Spirit’s descending from heaven transforming the bread and the wine, but the Christian believer being lifted up to heaven in mind and spirit by the symbols of bread and wine.

But if we are lifted up to heaven with our eyes and minds, to seek Christ there in the glory of his Kingdom, as the symbols invite us to him in his wholeness, so under the symbol of bread we shall be fed by his body, under the symbol of wine we shall separately drink his blood, to enjoy him at last in his wholeness (Institutes 4.17.18, 1960:1381).

Calvin took care to discuss the bread and wine as signs distinct from the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.  It is as if he is describing two separate but parallel realities.  This is evident when he writes that “the Supper is nothing but a visible witnessing of that promise contained in the sixth chapter of John….” (Institutes 4.17.14, 1960:1376).   In another place, Calvin described the Lord’s Supper as “a kind of exhortation” for us (Institutes 4.17.38; 1960:1414).  (See Jaroslav Pelikan’s Reform of Church and Dogma (1300-1700), pp. 202-203.)  Thus, despite the affirmation of the real presence Calvin’s stance bears a striking resemblance to the memorialistic position.


The Platonic Dualism in Calvin’s Thoughts

Calvin did not present his philosophical views as starkly as Russ Warren, but there are indications that Calvin held to something like Platonic dualism.  Evidence for Platonic dualism can be found not just in a dualistic understanding of reality but also in the negative view of material reality or its incapacity to convey divine grace.  Calvin’s dualism can be seen in his assumption that the lower material reality was inferior to the spiritual reality of heaven:

Surely, his infinity ought to make us afraid to try to measure him by our own senses.  Indeed, his spiritual nature forbids our imagining anything earthly or carnal of him.  For the same reason, he quite often assigns to himself a dwelling place in heaven.  And yet as he in incomprehensible he also fills the earth itself.  But because he sees that our slow minds sink down upon the earth, and rightly in order to shake off our sluggisnhness and inertia he raises us above the world. (Institutes 1.13.1, 1960:121)

For since this mystery is heavenly, there is no need to draw Christ to earth that he may be joined to us. (Institutes 4.17.31, 1960:1403; emphasis added)

His dualism can also be seen in his denial that matter can be a means of grace and his denigration of matter as unworthy of spiritual use:

Therefore, as by the symbol of oil the apostles have with good cause openly testified that the gift of healing committed to them was not their own power but that of the Holy Spirit, so on the other than they wrong the Holy Spirit who make a putrid and ineffectual oil his power. (Institutes 4.19.20, 1960:1467)

In the passage below we see what Robin Phillips labeled a zero sum approach to the divine glory that excluded a sacramental world view.  I urge Reformed readers to spend some serious time reflecting on what Phillips has to say about Reformed theology from the perspective of a concerned insider.  What must be confronted is the attitude of Calvin and his Reformed followers who seem to assume that the direct disciples of the Apostles got-it-wrong so soon and that the church had to wait 1400+ years for Calvin to come on the scene and get-it-right.  Is this view of church history consistent with the teachings and promise of Scripture?

Dualism also underlies Calvin’s criticism of icons.

we must cling to this principle: God’s glory is corrupted by an impious falsehood whenever any form is attached to him(Institutes 1.11.1; 1960:100; emphasis added)

What is striking about Calvin’s strident iconoclasm is the ontological chasm or canyon he digs between God and creation.  The ontological chasm underlying Calvin’s theology can also be seen in his attacks on the notion of a localized real presence (Institutes 4.17.29, 1960:1400) and his criticism of the ubiquity of Christ’s body (Institutes 4.17.30, 1960:1401).  Thus, we find that Russ Warren did a fair job of echoing Calvin’s world view.  If I have to criticize Warren’s presentation it would be that he overlooks the emphasis that Calvin placed on the Holy Spirit’s role in bridging this dualism.

The Eucharist has long been understood as our ascent to heaven.  This can be seen in the ancient anaphora:” Lift up your hearts.”  But just as the Eucharist must be understood as our ascent to Christ, so also the Eucharist must be understood as Christ descent to us.  The Reformed tradition’s reluctance to embrace a local presence in the Eucharist is a telling sign of: (1) its cosmology and (2) its relation to patristic theology.  In its cosmology the Reformed tradition affirms the goodness of creation but denies the adequacy of matter as a vehicle for divine grace.  There are degrees of dualistic thinking.  The extreme Gnostic view saw matter as evil; the Platonists viewed matter as inferior to the spiritual.  Reformed theology is based on a milder form that views the material as inferior to the spiritual and incapable of conveying divine grace and assumes the adequacy of pure thought to elevate us to higher reality.  With this novel dualistic understanding of the Eucharist the Reformed churches broke from its patristic roots and became a modern theological movement.

Cotton Mather

Philip Lee in his Against the Protestant Gnostics gives a humorous example of the gnostic streak in Cotton Mather.

I was once emptying the Cistern of Nature, and making Water at the wall. At the same Time, there came a Dog, who did so too, before me. Thought I; “What mean and vile Things are the Children of Men, in this mortal State! How much do our natural Necessities abase us and place us in some regard, on the Level with the very Dogs! . . .  Accordingly, I resolved, that it should be my ordinary Practice, whenever I step to answer the one or other Necessity of Nature, to make it an Opportunity of shaping in my Mind, some holy, noble, divine Thought. (p. 131)

Lee points out that here we have a prominent Protestant theologian and pastor lamenting, in an overt mind-over-matter sort of way, not his sinfulness, but rather his humanity!


The Orthodox Repudiation of Platonic Dualism

While Orthodoxy has no formal definition like the Roman Catholic transubstantiation or the Lutheran consubstantiation, we find clear indications of belief in a localized real presence.  This is strikingly clear in the Pre-Communion Prayer of John Chrysostom that Orthodox Christians recite just before receiving Communion:

I believe, O Lord, and I confess that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, Who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. I believe also that This is truly Your own most pure Body, and that This is truly Your own precious Blood. Therefore, I pray to you have mercy upon me and forgive my transgressions, both voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, committed in knowledge or in ignorance. And make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Your most pure Mysteries, for the remission of my sins, and unto life everlasting. Amen.

What comes across in this ancient pre-communion prayer is the sense of a convergence of two distinct realities in the Eucharist.  In the Eucharist the earthly and heavenly converge — no Platonic dualism here!  This understanding is evident in a prayer said by the priest prior to his receiving Communion:

Broken and distributed is the Lamb of God: Who is broken, yet not divided; who is eaten, yet never consumed; but sanctifies those who partake thereof.

Rather than attempt to explain this in terms of a detailed doctrine, the Orthodox prefer to see it as a mystery that transcends the laws of nature.  If the loaves and fishes of Christ’s miracles transcended the laws of nature, there shouldn’t be any reasons why Reformed Christians should object to a local presence in the Lord’s Supper.

Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan










The Orthodox understanding of reality is shaped by the Incarnation.  The divine condescension in which the Word became flesh upends the assumption of the need to ascend from mundane materiality to spiritual infinitude that underlies Platonic dualism.  What we find in ancient Christianity and Orthodoxy today is the healing of the rift in the cosmos and the re-enchantment of a fallen creation.  In the Incarnation the infinite Son of God is contained in the womb of a Virgin; the eternal Word becomes tangible flesh; the invisible God becomes visible and depictable; the gathering of believers becomes the Body of Christ; the waters of baptism becomes the laver of regeneration that we sink into becoming soaking wet; and the bread and the wine become the body and blood of Christ that we receive into our mouths “for the remission of sins and life everlasting.”

By denying or giving short shrift to the consecration of matter, Calvin undercut the place of sacraments in Christianity.  He transformed an embodied Incarnation-based Christianity to an intellectualized Scripture-based Christianity.


Space, Time and Incarnation

I found T.F. Torrance’s Space, Time and Incarnation helpful for making sense of the philosophical issues underlying the competing positions on the real presence.  Reading it has provided clues as to how the divergence between Eastern and Western theological traditions came about.  Torrance notes that Latin Christianity assimilated the Greek idea of creation as receptacle which led to the understanding that supernatural grace was mediated through “ecclesiastical vessels and capable of being handed on in space and time by means of them” (p. 25).  Torrance asserts that this receptacle view of creation led the medieval Catholic theologians and Luther into all sorts of conceptual difficulties. Torrance saw Anglican and Reformed theology standing much closer to the classical Patristic theology (p. 30).  Patristic theology in contrast rejected the receptacle view and saw space instead as “the seat of relations or the place of meeting and activity in the interaction between God and the world” (p. 24).  I find this claim dubious and wish he had given more attention to the Reformed position in his book.

Torrance criticized Luther for holding to an implicit monophysitism in his view of the real presence, but Calvin’s understanding can likewise be criticized for containing an implicit dyophysitism that is characteristic of Nestorianism.  Calvin and Luther’s opposing views on the real presence seem to reflect the struggle among the Reformers to reject the extremes of the Catholic transubstantiation and recover the ancient patristic understanding.  However, both sides went awry and fell short of their goals.


Is the Reformed Understanding of the Eucharist Nestorian?

Is the Reformed understanding of the real presence Nestorian?  The Nestorian heresy is not an easy one to identify.  One can emphatically affirm the enhypostatic unity of the two natures of Christ as did Calvin (2.14.4; Institutes 1960:486-487), but still be a de facto Nestorian.  Oftentimes the points of contention are the implications or working out of the two-natures of Christ.  Nestorius was condemned for his refusal to address Mary as the Theotokos (the God Bearer), apparently due to his reluctance to say that Mary was carrying God in her womb.  His refusal to use the title Theotokos had significant theological implications; one of them being the implicit separating of Christ’s humanity from His divinity during His time in Mary’s womb.  This doctrinal-liturgical controversy was settled decisively at the third and fourth Ecumenical Councils.

Apparently the tag “Nestorian” was used against Warren because of his (and the Reformed tradition’s) unwillingness to affirm that the bread and the wine become the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.  For him and the Reformed churches, the bread and the wine down here remain as they were but because we are up in heaven we do truly feed on the body and blood of Christ.  Unlike the memorialist position which posits a total disconnect between the earthly and the heavenly realities, the Reformed position posits an indirect connection – spiritual feeding — between the Communion table with the bread and wine and the Communion table in heaven.  That indirect link is our faith in Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit who elevates the believers to heaven.  Calvin’s reluctance to affirm a localized real presence suggests there are two parallel realities in the Eucharist that don’t quite converge.  This curious disjunction, based on the assumption of two parallel not quite convergent realities, suggests a dyophysitism that is characteristic of the Nestorian heresy.  For that reason I believe there is validity to the criticism of Nestorianism made against Russ Warren and the Reformed tradition.  This leads to the conclusion that the Reformed understanding of the real presence is at odds with the early church and historic Orthodoxy.

 Robert Arakaki


  1. drake

    “That indirect link is our faith in Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit who elevates the believers to heaven.”

    >>This is wrong. Calvin said that the Holy Spirit is the bond between Christ’s humanity in heaven and the earthly Christian in the sacrament. Our faith is not the bond.

    Calvin. Inst. Book 4. Chap 17.12

    “The bond of that connection, therefore, is the Spirit of Christ, who unites us to him, and is a kind of channel by which everything that Christ has and is, is derived to us.”


    “That indirect link is our faith in Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit who elevates the believers to heaven.”

    >> Christ’s humanity is locally present in a spiritual way through the Holy Spirit to the believer on earth. The only way you can prove that it is indirect is to prove that Reformed Theology cannot sustain the doctrine of the perichoresis.

    “Calvin’s reluctance to affirm a localized real presence suggests there are two parallel realities in the Eucharist that don’t quite converge.”

    >>>Can you show me where he denies that the humanity is localized in every sense? And you cannot use passages where he denies the physical locality of the humanity of Christ.

    “This curious disjunction, based on the assumption of two parallel not quite convergent realities, suggests a dyophysitism that is characteristic of the Nestorian heresy.”

    >>>But I thought we were talking about Platonism which is pantheistic and would allow no such thing as disjointed realities. Thank you for admitting that you reject dyophysitism. It is about time eastern people start admitting this. You believe that Christ’s humanity has divine attributes (Such as omnipresence). You are a Eutychian as has been proved dozens of times by Protestant scholars. Thank You!

    “For that reason I believe there is validity to the criticism of Nestorianism made against Russ Warren and the Reformed tradition. This leads to the conclusion that the Reformed understanding of the real presence is at odds with the early church and historic Orthodoxy.”

    >>>That it is at odds with the early church is comforting to me. Maybe you should stay consistent with the popular doctrine of Universalism in the early church as many in your church have consistently believed and again tell people that the devil is going to heaven. Or maybe you should admit that the early church rejected the Nicene creed for the numerical unity of Constantinople 381?

    • Raphael

      Drake, that some in the early church had universal leanings proves nothing. Shouldn’t we hope that all will be saved? Perhaps I am reading your last paragraph wrong…Can you help me understand why you think the early church rejected the Nicene Creed? And why are you comforted that the Reformed position is at odds with the early church and Orthodoxy? Are you part of a Restorationist community? Being an Orthodox Christian living in Utah I have had a great deal of interaction with the LDS church which is heavily influenced by Restorationism. Also, do you hold the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed to be a true expression of the Christian faith? Thank you for your time.

      • drake


        “Drake, that some in the early church had universal leanings proves nothing.”

        >>>It was more than just a few guys. Major Theologians from the Eastern Tradition advocated universalism- Origen, Nazianzen, Nyssa just to name a few.

        “Shouldn’t we hope that all will be saved?”

        >>> NO. 2 Thess 3:2 and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.

        “Perhaps I am reading your last paragraph wrong…Can you help me understand why you think the early church rejected the Nicene Creed?”

        >>> A friend of mine, David Waltz who used to be an Anchoretic Christian got fed up with all the inconsistencies in the Ecumenical councils and left Rome. He pointed out to me that regarding the unity of the divine persons, Constantinople 381 says “of one substance” while Nicea 325 says “of the essence”. The former emphasizes a numeric unity the latter generic. There could not be a more contradictory teaching regarding the trinity than this. He wrote three articles on this stuff here:




        “And why are you comforted that the Reformed position is at odds with the early church and Orthodoxy?”

        >>>Because the early Church turned away from Mosaic Ethics toward the pagan ethical system of the Monastery: http://olivianus.thekingsparlor.com/concerning-orthodoxy/against-ancient-christianity

        “Are you part of a Restorationist community?”

        >>>No. I believe that according to being/essence the Eastern Church has been and is a true Church of Jesus Christ. I believe that salvation is possible in your communion.

        “Being an Orthodox Christian living in Utah I have had a great deal of interaction with the LDS church which is heavily influenced by Restorationism.”

        >>>I could not have less in common with an organization that with LDS.

        “Also, do you hold the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed to be a true expression of the Christian faith?”

        >>>NO, it is the Hellenism of the Early Church come into its own. It is basically a return to the pagan idea of the Absolute Monad-Huperousia.

        • Raphael

          Hello Drake,
          Very interesting…thank you for responding. So what church do you belong to and do you believe it to be the true Christian faith? Or, are you a scholar who finds this topic fascinating but are agnostic or atheistic? Thanks again for your time…

          • drake.shelton@gmail.com

            I am a memeber of the visible body of Jesus Christ by profession. I am a member of no local church but I am planning on moving to calfornia to join the All Saints Reformed Church (Presbyterian).

          • Raphael

            Hello Drake,
            Very interesting…I agree with none of what you wrote but very interesting. Are you sure you don’t want to rethink the statement that you don’t hope all will be saved? You stated you are a “member of the visible body of Jesus Christ” yet that statement is contrary to the love of Christ and the witness of Scripture. What state must a person’s heart be if they don’t want to see people saved? How can you say you are growing in Christ and being transformed into Christ likeness if you are not learning to love like Him? What do you think is the aim of the Christian life? We understand that not all have faith and that some will perish but let us not wish to see people perish! My goodness!
            Second Peter states – “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

            The Lord’s does not want ANYONE to perish…

            And what do you make of First Timothy? “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.”

            God our Savior wants ALL men to be saved!

            Drake…you are a member of no congregation, no group of people to be accountable to. Why is this? Is there any Church Father, denomination, or Reformer that shares your beliefs? You stated that you are moving to California to attend All Saints Reformed Church (Presbyterian). As someone who was a Presbyterian for 40 years and a minister for much of my adult life your views are not in line with any major Church body. Has God waited for 2000 years for Drake to be born so He could finally reveal His truth through your manic pursuit of theology? Or…is this simply an example of self will run riot?
            Drake, God has a plan for His truth to be revealed and a process for us to grow in Christ. That plan and process can be found in the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church…You will continue to be “tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind of teaching” until you humble yourself and come to The Church…Come and see!

  2. Russ Warren

    Interesting response. I’ll have to spend some time with it. There is one assumption that I do need to call out, though:

    I’m not a Platonic dualist. The assumption that I’m making a hard break between the heavenly Forms (which I don’t believe in) and earthly reality isn’t true. My language in that particular post on my blog may not have been clear enough on that, but my blog exists in a context of other posts therein. Interestingly enough, many of my Orthodox friends have said that that post (among others) is incredibly Orthodox! My philosophical position, for what it is worth, is best described as similar to Roy Clouser’s, who wrote “The Myth of Religious Neutrality.” In that book he argues for an Eastern ressourcement of trinitarian ontology by the Reformed (although he still does consider the energies created — no one is perfect). Having that background information might help as you consider my own (not necessarily representative of the Reformed tradition) thoughts on the relationship between God, us, and time. Time is a creature as are we; God dwells in sovereign control of such (“I declare the end from the beginning, says the Lord” in Isaiah, for example), yet works in time (especially through the Incarnation).

    Hopefully you can see that this actually bears little, if any, resemblance to Plato and the Forms. My Eucharistic theology and my theology of worship are much closer to Schmemann than Plato. Torrance has been a big help along these lines, although I cannot remember if I had read him by the time I wrote that piece.

    • robertar


      I do not think you are a Platonic dualist but I do see a resemblance in the way you presented your understanding of the real presence. I’m glad you like Fr. Alexander Schmemann. I like him too. But the key issue in this blog posting is the localized real presence in the Eucharist. My understanding is that you would not affirm the local presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist and that you would not affirm a change in the bread and the wine into the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. Please let me know where you stand on this. And also please let me know where you stand on the importance of the epiclesis in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

      But take your time, I want this to be a fruitful and informative dialogue.


      • Russ Warren

        “A gentle answer turns away wrath…” (somewhere in Proverbs).

        Robert, thank you for your gentle answer. I’m taking some time to develop a decent, level response. I’ll probably post it on my blog and I’ll send a link to it on the Comments section here.

        I do believe we partake of the actual Body and Blood, not just a memorial or symbol. I am rare in the Reformed world, I suppose.

        • robertar

          Thanks Russ,

          Looking forward to your response. Feel free to send a link to your site.

          You may be a rare bird in Reformed circles but you’re not alone. One of my Gordon-Conwell Theological Seninary professors taught the same thing about the Lord’s Supper. I was at first upset when I heard his presentation but later realized that he was presenting Calvin’s views accurately.


  3. Russ Warren

    I might also add that I never said we “mystically feed” on Christ’s Body and Blood. In that original set of comments I was arguing that we actually feed on the real Body and Blood, but that this takes place in our ascent (“Lift up your hearts”/”We are seating in the heavenlies with Christ”) during worship. The point was the argue against the assumption that if Christ’s humanity is “locally” in heaven, we must posit a disconnect between the two natures. I was arguing that such an argument didn’t notice that we are were Christ “locally” is: no disconnect between the natures is needed, nor do we need an “extra Calvinisticum,” nor do we need a formal “transubstantiation” — we are there, feeding on the Christ.

    • robertar


      The phrase “mystically feed” comes from John W. Nevin, one of the Mercersburg theologians. In it he used the phrase to describe the Reformed position on the Lord’s Supper which I believe is the same as yours. That phrase should not be taken in a memorialist fashion. Hope this clarifies the matter.

      And as far as your statement that we do not need a formal “transubstantiation” are you in full agreement with the first century Liturgy of St. James? Or do you think that a modification of the anaphora is needed?


  4. Baroque Norseman

    Nevin, like most intelligent 19th century thinkers at that time, was influenced by Hegel and German *Idealism.* This is most evident in his preface to Schaff’s Principle of Protestantism.

  5. Eric Todd

    “That it is at odds with the early church is comforting to me.” [Note: See Drake’s comment.]

    Wow, just wow. Why would one want to follow a Christianity that evidently became heretical very shortly after Christ’s death and whose disciples cannot be trusted? Is the Holy Spirit so impotent that She could not protect the deposit of the faith from heresy even for one generation? If that is your understanding of Church history, why would you worship the Holy Spirit.

  6. Anon

    For whatever it is worth, I see nothing unorthodox in what Robert ascribes to Mr Warren – in fact the presentation looks completely in line with the earliest witnesses and modern Orthodox theologians including Fr Alexander. Also dyotheletism is not platonic – it is Orthodox. Weird piece.

    • robertar


      My problem is not in what Russ Warren affirms about our ascent in the Eucharist. I’m in agreement with him on that too. And I think modern Orthodox theologians like Fr. Alexander Schmemann were right to teach that. My problem is what Russ Warren seems to deny — the local presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist. Hopefully, I’m wrong on this and he will come out in a clear and unequivocal affirmation of the local presence in the Eucharist.

      BTW, I think you confused “dyophysitism” (two natures) with “dyotheletism” (two wills). They are two quite different concepts.


  7. Craig

    Hi Drake,
    You asked if anyone can show that Calvin denied the local presence of Christ in the Eucharist in every sense. While I think you phrased that question far too broadly to be of any use, nevertheless, I do think there is proof that Calvin embraced Zwingli’s view which denied the local presence in favor of a purely spiritual one. This can be found in the Consensus Tigurinus.. The Reformed church historian William Greenough Thayer Shedd summed it up in the following manner.

    “The Consensus Tigurinus was composed by Calvin himself, in 1549, and was adopted by the Zurich theologians. It comprises twenty-six articles, which treat only of the sacrament of the Supper. It grew out of a desire upon the part of Calvin, to effect a union among the Reformed upon the doctrine of the Eucharist. The attitude of Calvin respecting the Sacramentarian question was regarded by the Lutherans, as favourable rather than otherwise to their peculiar views. His close and cordial agreement with Luther upon the fundamental points in theology, together with the strength of his phraseology when speaking of the nature of the Eucharist, led the Swiss Zuinglians to deem him as on the whole further from them than from their opponents. In this Consensus Tigurinus, he defines his statements more distinctly, and left no doubt in the minds of the Zurichers that he adopted heartily the spiritual and symbolical theory of the Lord’s Supper. The course of events afterwards showed that Calvin’s theory really harmonized with Zuingle’s.” [Source: A History of Christian Doctrine By William Greenough Thayer Shedd, 1863.].

    Beginning with article 10 Calvin makes his affirmation of Zwingli’s view clear. Then in articles 21 through 23 and 26 he leaves no doubt where he stands..

    Article 21. No Local Presence Must Be Imagined.
    We must guard particularly against the idea of any local presence. For while the signs are present in this world, are seen by the eyes and handled by the hands, Christ, regarded as man, must be sought nowhere else than in Heaven, and not otherwise than with the mind and eye of faith. Wherefore it is a perverse and impious superstition to inclose him under the elements of this world.

    Article 22. Explanation of the Words “This Is My Body.”
    Those who insist that the formal words of the Supper, “This is my body; this is my blood,” are to be taken in what they call the precisely literal sense, we repudiate as preposterous interpreters. For we hold it out of controversy that they are to be taken figuratively, the bread and wine receiving the name of that which they signify. Nor should it be thought a new or unwonted thing to transfer the name of things figured by metonomy [modern spelling: metonymy] to the sign, as similar modes of expression occur throughout the Scriptures, and we by so saying assert nothing but what is found in the most ancient and most approved writers of the Church.

    Article 23. Of the Eating of the Body.
    When it is said that Christ, by our eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood, which are here figured, feeds our souls through faith by the agency of the Holy Spirit, we are not to understand it as if any mingling or transfusion of substance took place, but that we draw life from the flesh once offered in sacrifice and the blood shed in expiation.

    Article 26. Christ Not to Be Adored in the Bread.
    If it is not lawful to affix Christ in our imagination to the bread and the wine, much less is it lawful to worship him in the bread. For although the bread is held forth to us as a symbol and pledge of the communion which we have with Christ, yet as it is a sign and not the thing itself, and has not the thing either included in it or fixed to it, those who turn their minds towards it, with the view of worshipping Christ, make an idol of it.

    The Zwinglians were thrilled to sign this document, which I think says something about Calvin’s view of the real presence in the eucharist.

    • drake


      “I do think there is proof that Calvin embraced Zwingli’s view which denied the local presence in favor of a purely spiritual one.”

      >>>You are not reading what i wrote. I specifically acknowledge that the presence is spiritual. The point is, can the spirit not be a bond between the humanity of christ in heaven with the sinner on earth?

      I agree with everything said in those articles. You want the word “real” to mean “corporeal” and you also avoided other things I said in my comments.

  8. Karen


    Okay, I’m wading out in waters too deep for me, but that hasn’t seemed to stop me before. 🙂 With regard to Drake’s understanding of “spiritual” as at odds with “corporeal,” my understanding is that we partake of Christ’s Real Body and Blood in the Eucharist, but we do not understand this in a *crass* material sense–the Priest’s prayer of St. John Chrysostem’s Liturgy makes reference to the “unbloody” sacrifice that is being offered. IOW, in this Eucharist we are truly participating in the eternal act of Christ’s once-for-all Self-offering. We do believe that Christ’s *glorified humanity*–His whole resurrected Person–is *actually embodied* in the consecrated Bread and Wine (which also remains bread and wine, but no longer ordinary bread and wine) for us by the work of the Holy Spirit. Do I have it right?

    • robertar


      I believe the Orthodox approach to the real presence is: (1) to affirm that it is truly the Body and Blood of Christ that we receive in Communion and (2) it is a mystery. I agree with you that we do not understand the real presence in a “crass material sense.” As far as reconciling Christ’s whole resurrected Person with what is on the altar, I would shy away from detailed explanations. Once you come up with a detailed explanation that resolves the problems wheres the mystery? But in any event I suggest you ask your priest and share with us what you learned.


      • Karen

        Thanks, Robert. I’ll do that. Mystery is a good word. I did read recently that the individual “Mysteries” (Sacraments in Western terms) of the Orthodox Church are “Mysteries” in exactly the same way that the Church is actually and truly, in a “Mystery,” the Body of which Christ is the Head. That is, they are specific manifestations of that one great overarching Mystery of Christ within His Church (Colossians 1:27, “. . . Christ in you, the hope of glory.”). I also read that this Mystery is not limited to Baptism and the Eucharist, nor even strictly to the seven formally recognized “Sacraments” of the Church, but is present wherever and in whatever embodied act of the Church (or of a member of the Church) is inspired by the Holy Spirit and manifests Christ. I’ll try to find the quote.

  9. Anon

    The Orthodox position is best expressed by St Irenaeus of Lyons, which follows the teaching of St Paul and St John:


    This is the teaching of the Holy Apostles received from our Lord.

  10. drake


    “Once you come up with a detailed explanation that resolves the problems wheres the mystery?”

    >>>I have gone through this multiple times with Perry Robinson and he won;t ever touch it, let’s see if you will. If you appeal to Mystery why can’t your opponents escape your accusations by doing the same thing? I don’t appeal to mystery unless we are discussing something unrevealed, not logically contradictory as you are using the term. So what would you say if Mr. Russ Warren simply replied to your accusations of Nestorianism by stating, “Hey, Robertar, we are not Nestorians and it is a mystery why we are not”?

    • robertar


      I’m not pressing Russ Warren to explain in a logically consistent manner the Reformed understanding of the real presence. If one accepts the premises of the Reformed doctrine then there’s a logical consistency to their position. Being logically consistent doesn’t mean that one is right. Having the right starting point is critical to right belief.

      I believe, however, that the Reformed position is at odds with the early church on the local presence. That is, the early church believed in a local presence in the Eucharist and the Reformed tradition does not. I cited early liturgical texts in support of this. All that Warren needs to do is provide quotations that show that Calvin or some other Reformed theologians did in deed affirm the local presence in the Eucharist OR he can provide a reasonable argument that despite the differences that the Reformed Christians do have the same liturgical theology as the early Christians OR he can admit that there is a fundamental break between the Reformed tradition and the early church. I think Warren is going to have to select the third option.

      The real issue between me and Russ Warren is the local presence. He can assert all he wants that he really truly indubitably sincerely unapologetically believes that he partakes of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, but if he denies the local presence then there is a fundamental break between him and the early church and with the Orthodox Church as well. The tag “Nestorianism” is my understanding of the implications of denying the local presence. But right now I’m waiting to hear back from him on where he stands on the local presence in the Eucharist.

      Your usage of the word “mystery” indicates that you don’t quite understand the way the Orthodox use it. It’s not an intellectual escape hatch; it’s a humble recognition that there are limits to the human intellect. It’s similar to saying that light is simultaneously both a wave and particle at the same time. We can’t totally explain it right now, but we can affirm the basic facts. I’ve read about the medieval Catholic theologians attempts to explain the real presence and was amazed at the intricacy of their argumentations. I’ve read the attempts by Lutheran and Reformed theologians to explain the real presence and found both sides impressive and unconvincing. I like the Orthodox approach which affirms that what is given in the Sunday liturgy is truly the body and blood of Christ.


  11. Karen

    Robert, in reflection, my referring to Christ in the Eucharist as being His “whole resurrected Person” comes from discussions on Fr. Stephen’s blog and also perhaps an introduction to Orthodoxy that I read as a catechumen by Christos Yannaros (if I recall correctly). This is just affirming that it is Christ Himself–His life being inseparable from His whole Person–that we receive in the Eucharist as opposed to His Body and Blood in a crass, material sense (i.e., His mortal remains–which doesn’t make sense, anyway, because He left no mortal remains–death could not hold Him!). Isn’t it also true that, as Orthodox, we do not believe anything we receive from God–life, grace, etc.,–is received apart from His whole Being as if it were a secondary, created substance (hence the whole “essence/energies” distinction)? This is in no way to try to suggest that this is humanly comprehensible as to how it happens, etc. We accept by faith that it is true because the Lord told us this is what we are doing (Luke 22:18-20; John 6:48-58).

    • robertar


      I’m not disagreeing with what you wrote. And I like Fr. Stephen’s blog and Christos Yannaros’ writings. If I sound hesitant, it is because Western theologians have gotten into difficulties with the logical implications that arise from explaining the real presence. For example, Martin Luther’s affirmation of the ubiquity of Christ’s body in relation to the Eucharist has generated criticisms based on the logical implications that arise from his position. On this blog I am trying to represent the position of the Orthodox Church, not my personal views. Thus, for that reason I prefer to ground statements on the OrthodoxBridge in Scripture, Liturgy, and the Church Fathers; the major components of Tradition.

      Thank you for joining in the discussion!


      • Karen

        That is, of course, the sound approach, and you do a good job. You also understand some of those historic theological pitfalls and rabbit trails in considerably more depth, accuracy, and detail than I do.

  12. Canadian

    What the Reformed refuse to discuss is the reason why the unworthy are judged IN THE ACT of eating and drinking! Calvin thinks the sacrament is made effective only by faith and only the worthy partakers receive a spiritual manducation. He does not believe the unworthy soar into heaven to receive judgement where Christ is locally present. Yet Paul warns the unworthy that they could die by not discerning the body and blood of the Lord in the Eucharist! The reason they get sick or die is because they are partaking (unworthily) the deified body and blood of our Christ!

  13. Canadian

    And yes, it is Nestorian to imply that Christ is “divinely” or “spiritually” present but his poor and weak humanity couldn’t tag along but is at home sitting at the right hand of the Father. If Christ is present anywhere (Mars, Toronto, Sao Palo, Pluto), he is present as a divine Person in two natures without separation outside and above time itself. But again, I emphasize what John of Damascus said about the eucharist….Christ does not NEED to descend from heaven for the bread and wine to become his very deified body and blood, but they are changed.

  14. Karen

    “And yes, it is Nestorian to imply that Christ is “divinely” or “spiritually” present but his poor and weak humanity couldn’t tag along but is at home sitting at the right hand of the Father.”


    Obviously, we are talking about the tendency for the definition of “spiritual” to degrade (among other things) into something less substantial “real” than the material within the modern imagination and, more importantly perhaps to this discussion, to be placed in antithesis to that which is embodied in the material. However, in the true biblical sense (e.g., Galatians 6:1), it is impossible to be a genuinely “spiritual” human being apart from acts done in the body (including thoughts and emotions) that are being transfigured by the activity of the Holy Spirit.

  15. drake

    “The real issue between me and Russ Warren is the local presence….but if he denies the local presence then there is a fundamental break between him and the early church and with the Orthodox Church as well.”

    >>>Then you are making the logical leap that because he denies the corporeal local presence that that means he denies a reality. So then are you admitting that you make logical inferences to accuse someone of heresy?
    “The tag “Nestorianism” is my understanding of the implications of denying the local presence. But right now I’m waiting to hear back from him on where he stands on the local presence in the Eucharist.”
    >>But this door swings both ways. You said,

    “I believe the Orthodox approach to the real presence is: (1) to affirm that it is truly the Body and Blood of Christ that we receive in Communion and (2) it is a mystery.”

    >>>But the fact is, to do that you have to affirm divine attributes (omnipresence; AND PLEASE READ THIS: “a property is not an attribute”) to the humanity of Christ. That is Eutychian.

    “It’s not an intellectual escape hatch; it’s a humble recognition that there are limits to the human intellect. ”

    >>Quantitative or qualitative limits?

    “It’s similar to saying that light is simultaneously both a wave and particle at the same time.”

    >>>No it is not because God never tells us that physical things are rational. Intellectual objects follow rational laws. As a matter of fact God is pretty clear that we know nothing about the physical world: Ecc 8: 17 and I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover; and though the wise man should say, “I know,” he cannot discover.

    “We can’t totally explain it right now, but we can affirm the basic facts.”

    >>>There is no such thing as a scientific (empirically acquired) fact.

    “I like the Orthodox approach which affirms that what is given in the Sunday liturgy is truly the body and blood of Christ.”

    >>> But again, if your definition of “truly” and “really” is “corporeally” then you have reached this conclusion through a logical inference which I am waiting to see you provide a basis for which itself contradicts the so called limitation that you affirm of human intellect; and finally to do this you need to admit that the humanity of Christ is omnipresent and recant any heretical claims you have made against Eutychus, deny Chalcedon and re-assimilate into the Oriental Church. I don’t see how you escape the monophysite position and it is no wonder that the oriental church has been separate from you for so long. This is why those of us protestants who have read the history of your church are not convinced of your so called established unity of doctrine.

    • Canadian

      The elevation of Christ’s humanity through participation in his divinity in the person of Christ is not Eutichian. The humanity remains human. Our fallen humanity is not the “normal” or “standard” for what human nature is or can be. On the road to Damascus, Paul saw the divine person of Christ but those with him only heard his voice and saw nothing. Christ’s humanity participated in the invisibility of his divinity. That does not mean his humanity IS divinity. His humanity was elevated beyond it’s fallen (but not natural) capabilities. Christ makes the bread and wine his body and blood, he does not have to stand there for it to be such.

      • drake

        Are you saying that Adam’s humanity was omnipresent before his fall?

        • Canadian

          Good to hear from you Drake.
          No, Adam was not omnipresent. But the capacities, capabilities and extent of human nature’s participation in divinity should not be viewed through fallen or even unfallen Adam but through Christ. Many fathers affirm, Christ’s incarnation should not be thought of as a consequence of the fall, but as the original purpose. Prelapsasrian man is not at his pinnacle in the unfallen first Adam, but rather in the second Adam. Unfallen Adam was not deified and could only become so through the incarnate Christ.

          I know you are trying to keep distinction between the human and divine, but let me ask you this….
          Is there anywhere that Christ is present where he is not in both natures?

          • anon


          • david

            Well said Canadian.

    • robertar

      Dear Folks,

      Sadly, I do not normally respond to anything Drake says. He has not only proven to be a contentious and argumentative man on most every blog he posts on, (but his own) —he also admits to NOT being a current member, under any oversight or authority of ANY kind of christian communion. In this the Orthodox-Reforme Bridge Blog considers Drake in rebellion against the Christian Church and is now longer given any forum here to express any of his views. Yes, that means he no longer has posting privileges here and we will not respond to anything he says. It is with sadness we call Drake to repentance and submission to the Faith he professes, at least mentally, to genuinely believe. God have mercy on his soul.


      • Canadian

        Drake’s a tormented man, I think. The reason he fails to commune with the local Reformed is partly because of Orthodox doctrine he espouses. I don’t think coming under the authority of some “Christian communion” should make much difference to us, though. A schismatic body is….well…..a schismatic body nonetheless.
        I think God is leading him, just like he led me when I was abstaining from any community for a number of years…..back in portions of my arrogant and self-assured Protestant days. Something will break through to his heart to expose his Covenanter, Reformed and Clarkian inconsistencies. I would ask that you let him speak freely here if he has something not contentious or argumentative to contribute…..remember there are many lurkers who benefit from not only the discussion, but also watching how we respond to tough and even edgy questioning. Lord have mercy on me in this regard.

        • Karen

          Let’s pray that being cut off from contending here (and I didn’t see any movement/growth in understanding on his part in his comments–perhaps you did) will motivate him to seek out face to face encounters with alternative discussion partners on some of these issues. May God guide him and open the eyes of his heart.

    • Anastasios

      Ohhh Drake, you never cease to amaze us with your (lack of) knowledge of church history. The Oriental churches are NOT Eutychian, in fact they consider Eutyches to be a heretic just like the Chalcedonian churches do. The Christology of the Oriental churches is Cyrillian, not Eutychian. They reject Chalcedon because (in their view) it is impossible to reconcile Cyril’s Christology (which came earlier) with that advocated by Chalcedon (which they see as a later innovation).

      Also, regarding “attributes”, it is my impression that Orthodox theology does not talk about God as having “attributes” (which is a Western tendency originating with Scholasticism); they speak of Him having “energies” instead (see Gregory Palamas, for instance).

      • robertar


        I want the OrthodoxBridge to be a place where people from various theological traditions can interact. It’s okay to criticize their positions with respect to facts and their reasoning, but let’s not make fun of them. Coarse jokes are out of line here. I think you know what I mean.


  16. Canadian

    Thankfully, you just broke it 🙂
    Do you still see nothing unorthodox about Warren’s and the Reformed view?

  17. Canadian

    Meanwhile……what do the other Reformed readers think about the above issues that have been raised?

  18. Reformed Lurker

    I echo Karen in that these are deep waters indeed. I do agree with Robert though, that the point of contention between reformed and orthodox appears to be a localized real presence. My understanding of the reformed view is that it is essentially Zwinglian, a memorial with physical signs and symbols, meant to depict spiritual realities in a physical way.

    But what I would like to see addressed from the Orthodox side is the role of the priesthood in all of this. I know the reformed hold that only teaching elders can administer the Lord’s Supper, (why the extra-biblical division between ‘teaching’ and ‘ruling’ elders is another question, for another day) but there are many protestant denominations who do not hold this, and many more who seem to ignore the sacraments altogether, or essentially make up their own (foot washings, for example). What is the Orthodox understanding? Is the celebration of the Eucharist dependent upon a validly ordained priest?

    • robertar

      Dear Reformed Lurker,

      Your question is a very good one and raises another major difference between the Reformed tradition and Orthodoxy — apostolic succession and the episcopacy. Let me quote Ignatius of Antioch:

      “Let no one do any of the things appertaining to the Church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears let the congregation be present; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” (Letter to the Smyrnaean VIII)

      Because the Eucharist is an act of covenant renewal, it is imperative that one have the covenant authority to celebrate this sacrament. Without this covenant authority, the communion service would be just a symbol. I told someone recently that no matter how sincerely he or his congregation believes and affirms the real presence, it is just a symbol unless there is a valid episcopacy. Keep in mind that we are not talking formal ritualistic laying on of hands but a genuine sharing of faith in Christ.

      The Orthodox priest is the bishop’s designated representative. On top of the altar is a piece of cloth called the “antimension” which has the bishop’s signature on it. The antimension is a sign of the priest’s being under the authority of the bishop and that he is celebrating the Eucharist on behalf of the bishop. Sewn within the antimension are some relics of the martyrs. It may not seem like much to some, but the relics of the martyrs make present the Church Catholic and the church triumphant at the Eucharist. In other words even if there is just a handful of people there, they are organically part of the larger Church. It is an ontological union grounded in Christ’s resurrection.


  19. John


    In a later thread on Michael Horton after this one ,there was this link by “anon” (top post):


    I then followed it to:


    Inter alia, I found this by Fr Pomazansky in his dogmatic theology. I believe this implicitly, & trust this assists other bloggers:

    The changing of the bread and wine in the mystery of the Eucharist.

    In the Mystery of the Eucharist, at the time when the priest, invoking the Holy Spirit upon the offered Gifts, blesses them with the prayer to God the Father: “Make this bread the precious Body of Thy Christ; and that which is in this cup, the precious Blood of Thy Christ; changing them by Thy Holy Spirit” — the bread and wine actually are changed into the Body and Blood by the coming down of the Holy Spirit. After this moment, although our eyes see bread and wine on the Holy Table, in their very essence, invisibly for sensual eyes, this is the true Body and true Blood of the Lord Jesus, only under the “forms” of bread and wine.

    Thus the sanctified Gifts 1) are not only signs or symbols, reminding the faithful of the redemption, as the reformed Zwingli taught; and likewise, 2) it is not only by His “activity and power” (“dynamically”) that Jesus Christ is present in them, as Calvin taught; and finally, 3) He is not present in the meaning only of “penetration,” as the Lutherans teach (who recognize the co-presence of Christ “with the bread, under the form of bread, in the bread”); but the sanctified Gifts in the Mystery are changed or (a later term) “transubstantiated” (The term “transubstantiation” comes from medieval Latin scholasticism. Following the Aristotelian philosophical categories, “transubstantiation” is a change of the “substance” or underlying reality of the Holy Gifts without changing the “accidents” or appearance of bread and wine. Orthodox theology, however, does not try to “define” this Mystery in terms of philosophical categories, and thus prefers the simple word “change.”) into the true Body and true Blood of Christ, as the Saviour said “For My flesh is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed” (John 6:55).

    This truth is expressed in the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs in the following words: “We believe that in this sacred rite our Lord Jesus Christ is present not symbolically (typikos), not figuratively (eikonikos), not by an abundance of grace, as in the other Mysteries, not by a simple descent, as certain Fathers say about Baptism, and not through a “penetration” of the bread, so that the Divinity of the Word should “enter” into the bread offered for the Eucharist, as the followers of Luther explain it rather awkwardly and unworthily — but truly and actually, so that after the sanctification of the bread and wine, the bread is changed, transubstantiated, converted, transformed, into the actual true Body of the Lord, which was born in Bethlehem of the Ever-Virgin, was baptized in the Jordan, suffered, was buried, resurrected, ascended, sits at the right hand of God the Father, and is to appear in the clouds of heaven; and the wine is changed and transubstantiated into the actual true Blood of the Lord, which at the time of His suffering on the Cross was shed for the life of the world. Yet again, we believe that after the sanctification of the bread and wine there remains no longer the bread and wine themselves, but the very Body and Blood of the Lord, under the appearance and form of bread and wine.”

    Such a teaching of the holy Mystery of Communion may be found in all the Holy Fathers, beginning from the most ancient ones, such as St. Ignatius the God-bearer, and other ancient church writers such as St. Justin the Philosopher. However, in several of the ancient writers, this teaching is not expressed in completely precise terms, and in some expressions there seems to be almost a symbolical interpretation (something which the Protestants point out). However, this means of expression in part is to be explained by the polemical aims which these writers had in mind: for example, Origen was writing against a crudely sensual attitude to the Mystery; Tertullian was combatting the heresy of Marcian; and the apologists were defending the general Christian truths against the pagans, but without leading them into the depths of the mysteries.

    The Fathers who participated in the First Ecumenical Council confessed: “At the Divine Table we should not see simply the bread and the cup which have been offered, but raising our minds on high, we should with faith understand that on the sacred Table lies the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world, Who is offered as a Sacrifice by the priests; and truly receiving His Precious Body and Blood, we should believe that this is a sign of our Resurrection.”

    In order to show and explain the possibility of such a transformation of the bread and wine by the power of God into the Body and Blood of Christ, the ancient pastors indicated the Almightiness of the Creator and the special deeds of His almightiness: the creation of the world out of nothing, the mystery of the Incarnation, the miracles recorded in the holy books, and in particular the transformation of water into wine (St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Damascene, and others). They also indicate how in us as well the bread and wine or water taken by us as food are converted, in a way unknown to us, into our own body and blood (St. John Damascene).


    Thus, from these comments, it would appear that the Protestants have parts of it right, but not the whole. It reminds me of the old tale from the British Raj when the famous 6 blind men of Hindustan went to find out about the elephant.

    Robert, is this Indian example an apt description of Protestant belief on this subject?

  20. Russ Warren

    Oddly enough, Mr. Shaward posted recently something very similar to my intent in all the blogposts I’ve made on this topic.

    The Scriptural, Patristic, and Fully Orthodox View of the Church

    He references Fr. Laurent Cleenewerck as his main source. Fr. Cleenewerck has written a book called His Broken Body that might be a worthy review project both here at the Bridge and, if I can get my mitts on a copy, at my site.

    For what it is worth.


  21. Archpriest John W. Morris

    The problem with Calvin was that he was a Nestorian. Although he affirms his acceptance of Chalcedon, if you read his institutes you will see that he makes such a sharp division between the human and divine natures of Christ that his Christology is actually Nestorian. Calvin denies that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, because he teaches that the body of Christ is in heaven. Calvin denies the deification of the human nature of Christ. Therefore, he cannot conceive that the deified body and blood of Christ could be present in the Eucharist. In other words, Calvin denies the Patristric teaching of the communication of attributes which teaches that the human nature of Christ is deified by its union with the divine nature. This is not monophysitism because we still believe in the two natures of Christ but believe that the human nature is deified just as we believe that those who are saved are made by grace what God is by nature.
    Calvin’s approach is platonic because he took much of his theology from Augustine who was himself a follower of neo-platonism.

  22. Bayou Huguenot


    I don’t want to siderail the discussion, but here is a suggestion for your Calvinism series: do a post on refuting/reviewing/(agreeing with?) Calvinist Political Theory ala Rutherford and Gillespie.

    If you do that, you will show yourself infinitely more informed than even the middle-class bourgeouis Reformed seminary and college professors who take the name of Rutherford, but yea, deny his doctrine thereof.

    And you will also see where much of the Bill of Rights tradition came from.

  23. br.d

    Thank you for leaving this page active!
    I’ve been web searching on Ontological Dualism ( from which is derived the “yin-yang” notion of co-existing and equally necessary antithesis) which from my perspective is a fundamental and unique characteristic of Calvinism. I’m not quite sure what you mean by Platonic Dualism – and whether that is referring to spirit=good vs. flesh=evil. If so, that is not the fundamental attribute I perceive in Calvinism. In Calvinism, many things appear in the form of antithetical pairs ( good-evil, yes-no, true-false, light-darkness) Consider the Calvinist answers to the following questions (when consistent with Calvin’s underlying ontology) : (1) Does god will to save all persons = yes-no. (2) Did god will Adam’s disobedience = yes-no. (3) Does god determine or permit sins and evils = yes-no. Since both good and evil appear to exist within Calvinism, in the form of ontological dualism (a kind of yin-yang), I think this characteristic of Calvinism, is what presents a consistent contrast to a majority view in Christianity which maintains a sharp line of demarcation between good and evil. If so, the fact that this would appear in Calvinsm’s notion of the Eucharist would be consistent. – many thanks :-]

    • Robert Arakaki

      Thank you for your comment. When I spoke of Platonic dualism I had in mind spirit=good & flesh=evil. This I believe explains Calvin’s rather unusual understanding of the real presence: the bread and wine on the communion table remain unchanged while the Christians truly feed on Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper.

      To say Calvin’s theology can be understood in terms of antithetical pairs requires deep familiarity with his corpus — something I’m not ready to claim. However, I do question your attempt to understand Calvin using Daoism’s yin-yang symbol. Daoism’s yin-yang is based on a dynamic and fluid complementarity, not on rigid, oppositional dichotomies. I believe that Greek philosophy, not Chinese, offers us a better vantage point for understanding Calvin.


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